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Diagnostic Knee Arthroscopy


What you need to know about a diagnostic knee arthroscopy:

A diagnostic knee arthroscopy is a procedure to look inside your knee joint. An arthroscope is a flexible tube with a light and camera on the end. Diagnostic arthroscopy is usually done to check for disease or damage inside your knee.

How to prepare for your procedure:

Your healthcare provider will talk to you about how to prepare for your procedure. He or she may tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of your procedure. You may need to stop taking medicines that increase your risk for bleeding, such as aspirin and ibuprofen. Your healthcare provider will tell you what medicines to take or not take on the day of your procedure. Make arrangements to have someone drive you home and stay with you for a day after your procedure.

What will happen during your procedure:

  • You may be given an antibiotic through your IV to help prevent a bacterial infection. You may be given general anesthesia to keep you asleep and free from pain during your procedure. You may instead be given local anesthesia to numb the procedure area. With local anesthesia, you may still feel pressure or pushing during the procedure, but you should not feel any pain. Another option is regional anesthesia. Regional anesthesia will keep you numb from the waist down during your procedure. Your healthcare provider will discuss which option is best for you.
  • Your healthcare provider will make a small incisions on your knee. He or she will rinse out the fluid that is in your knee. This will help him or her see your joint better. The arthroscope will be inserted into one of the incisions. The picture from the scope will be seen on a monitor. Your healthcare provider will examine your knee joint. He or she may repair damage or take tissue for a biopsy.

What will happen after your procedure:

Your healthcare will use stitches to close the incisions. A compression bandage will be placed on your knee to help decrease swelling. You may need crutches or other devices to keep from putting full weight on your knee. You will have some pain. Keep your knee elevated and ice on it as directed by your healthcare provider. You will not be able to drive for some time. Your healthcare provider may give you exercises to do. He or she may have you go to physical therapy.

Risks of a diagnostic knee arthroscopy:

You may bleed more than expected or get an infection. You may have an allergic reaction to the anesthesia. You may have pain or knee stiffness. Blood may collect around your knee. You may need to have more knee surgery in the future. You may get a blood clot in your leg. The clot may cause life-threatening problems.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • Your stitches come apart.
  • You fall or injure your knee.
  • Your toes are numb, tingly, cool, or blue.

Contact your healthcare provider or orthopedist if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have more pain in your knee, even after you take pain medicines.
  • Your incision site is red, swollen, or draining pus.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Care for your knee bandage:

Keep the bandage on your knee clean and dry. Do not remove your bandage until your healthcare provider says it is okay. Your healthcare provider will tell you when it is okay to take a shower or bath. He or she will tell you when to change the bandage.

Care for yourself at home:

  • Keep your knee elevated as directed. Raise your knee above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your knee on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably.
  • Put ice on your knee. Ice helps decrease swelling and pain. Ice may also help prevent tissue damage. Use an ice pack or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Place it on your knee for 15 to 20 minutes every hour as directed.
  • Wear your knee brace and pressure stockings as directed. Your brace will prevent your knee from moving and may help it heal. Pressure stockings put pressure on your legs to help blood flow and prevent clots.
  • Use assistive devices as directed. Use crutches or other devices to keep pressure off your knee as it heals.
  • Exercise your knee as directed. Your healthcare provider may give you exercises to do after your procedure. Start slowly and return to your usual activities as directed.

Physical therapy:

A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain.

Follow up with your orthopedist as directed:

Your orthopedist may need to check your knee within a few days after your procedure. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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